Charlton Under 18s manager Anthony Hayes is pleased with his young side, who remain unbeaten since the start of the season.
The team have played eleven matches so far, winning five and picking up six draws.
Hayes said: “Result wise it’s been very positive. We’re unbeaten, but naturally we are trying to turn those draws into wins. We have to be a little bit more ruthless in the final third but it’s been such a positive start.
“We have an amazing group of players, both first and second years. They’re an honest and hard working group who are keen and willing to learn. We’re resilient and competitive and that's reflective in the league table.”
This season has seen a change in role for Hayes, who was previously working as a Professional Development Coach at the Charlton Academy. This year, he is at the helm, guiding the youngsters to a fantastic start as they sit third in the table, three points off top spot with a game in hand. The former Brentford coach was quick to praise the impact of Academy Manager Steve Avory, who is supporting him in his role.
He explained: “I’m enjoying leading and driving the programme, working with the players daily and they've responded well. I’ve known a lot of them since I’ve been here. It’s now my fourth season working with some of them. I’m enjoying leading it and driving it, there’s challenges daily but the boys are doing well so I’m very pleased. The guidance Steve provides is invaluable, he has such a wealth of knowledge and experience in developing young players. We speak daily and work with the players daily and he's a wonderful person to be able to call on because of that knowledge.”
With the recent FA Youth Cup Draw, the Addicks are looking forward to a fierce London derby during the festive period having been drawn away against West Ham United on December 14th, but it is not just the players looking forward to it.
“The players will look forward to it as will the staff," said Hayes.
"They’re a good side, the most exciting thing is that it's two clubs renowned for producing young players for their first team. On the night you'll have a group of players that will, no doubt, go on to play in the first team for West Ham and I’m convinced we have players in our group who will go on to represent Charlton.
“It’s two clubs with great young players going head to head. It’ll be a great contest and we want to go and produce an upset, because no doubt we’ll be underdogs."
First team manager Lee Bowyer has taken an interest in the performance of his young players this season, giving them an opportunity to impress whilst training with the first team.
Hayes explained: “It’s great that we are doing well in terms of league position, being competitive but the end goal is to get the players through the pathway and the manager has been very supportive of that - he’s watched training and given them a chance in the first team. We’ve got a good environment, its motivational for the players.
“Lee came out last Monday, straight after the first team played Preston on Sunday. He bumped into me and asked me what time we were training. He doesn’t have to do it as he’s very busy and has games coming up, but he came out on a wet morning to watch and observe the session from the sideline. It was great to get his thoughts and observations, not just for the players but for me as a coach too.
“The players need to realise how fortunate they are that the manager takes so much interest and involvement in the young players at the club. All the staff care, from first team to the development and academy staff. It’s vital to getting them through the pathway.”
Article by Nick Emms